Saturday, February 9, 2008

Back to Work

The U.S. team hit the field late this afternoon after having all of Friday off and most of Saturday. The day and half break from training couldn’t have come at a better time, not only because the players had worked extremely hard last week, but the weather in Los Angeles was spectacular. Winter in LA: We love it. Most of the players took full advantage of the day, finding numerous ways of “Chill-axing” (that’s chillin’ and relaxing), including going to the beach, spending time with boyfriends, kids and husbands, eating good meals out and basically just decompressing. The players who hadn’t yet run the Beep Test this year did so before training this afternoon, with Kate Markgraf outlasting the group and looking like her comeback from injuries is just about complete. The 26 players currently in camp will be divided into two groups tomorrow to play scrimmages in the morning and afternoon and the second week of training kicks into high gear.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Day Off

Tomorrow is a day off for the U.S. team, and it’s much deserved, especially for the group of veterans who have been doing fitness-related drills and games all week. The level of training for the 12 players, who will basically form the core of the team that will attempt to qualify for the Olympics, has been fantastic. In addition to the tremendous hard work, the quality of soccer, the finishing and the crispness of practice has been highly impressive. On Saturday, the team starts practicing as one group and will train until Feb. 17, at which time head coach Pia Sundhage will choose the Algarve Cup roster. There will be at least five full-field scrimmages next week, giving the players plenty of time to gel in an 11v11 environment, as Sundhage continues to evaluate her roster and lineup in preparation for putting out as starting lineup for Olympic qualifying. Of course, prior to traveling to Mexico, she will get four difficult matches to continue to evaluate the team at the Algarve Cup in Portugal, where the USA will play China, Norway and Italy, plus a placement game. Check back this weekend and we’ll see if we can find out what some of the players did on their Friday off.

Last Hour

The younger group hit the field this morning for its last training of the week before head coach Pia Sundhage releases some players and combines the two groups (younger players and veterans) who have been training separately. It was a last chance for some of the players to make an impact on Sundhage, who watched the yellow team defeat the blue team on two goals from Natasha Kai. The 60-minute game was intense, as one would imagine with roster spots on the line, and a fine conclusion to a very hard week of training. Defender Heather Mitts, in her first training camp after coming from ACL surgery, sat out the scrimmage to nurse a mild muscle pull, but defender Cat Whitehill came in from the other group and played the full hour, testing her ankle that she sprained in China before the Four Nations Tournament. Whitehill looked good, winning tackles and sending several of her patented week-side long balls over the defense. The veteran group has a training session this afternoon, then Friday will be a well-deserved day off. The team returns to training on Sunday afternoon as one group.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

DB Sighting

Funny thing happened yesterday at The Home Depot Center. With the MLS teams starting pre-season workouts, the Los Angeles Galaxy is back training and it seems that Mr. David Beckham was in the training room that is adjacent to the U.S. WNT locker room. When word got it among the players, somehow entire the WNT locker room of entirely healthy players (who needed no ankle taping, ice or therapy) emptied out into the training room for a “fly by,” all hoping to catch a glimpse. Smooth, ladies. Very smooth.


Another Good Day

“Winter” days like today are why people live in Southern California. The sun was out, the skies were clear and there was a faint chill in the air, making for perfect training weather. The veteran group continued its theme of fitness training, although it’s been done almost exclusively with the soccer ball, and once again “busted” with a tremendously intense and hard-working practice session. The younger group did not hit the field in the morning (pool workout instead) then had a functional training session in the afternoon, working on some long balls, heading and finishing. The mood in camp has been great, although the two separate groups have had little interaction with different training times and meal times. But that changed tonight as almost the whole team and staff went out for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Call us crazy, but we think you could feed a small village on the amount of food they serve you at that place. Still, while burning the thousands of calories the U.S. team does during a typical day, they can definitely throw down the pastas, steaks, fish, salads and plenty of appetizers. And oh yeah, don’t forget the cheesecake. A special happy birthday to U.S. team general manager Cheryl Bailey, who celebrated her birthday with a (cheese) cake and a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday from the players. And get this, it was her birthday, but she picked up the check! Such is the life of the GM.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Guest Blogger: HAO

Heather O’Reilly decided to hang out at The Home Depot Center today between morning and afternoon trainings and use those few hours to take care of a bunch those little “life-maintenance” tasks that definitely build up when you are training, traveling and playing soccer all the time. She was basically just hanging out in the U.S. Soccer offices, so we asked her to pen guest blog. She did have a lot to do before the next training, but she took a few minutes to share these thoughts with us:

The “veteran” group had an early weight session today at The Home Depot Center today. Because there were many MLS teams and other athletes training at the site this morning, we lifted weights in the Velodrome, which is where the track cyclists train. We had a hard time focusing with the bikes whizzing by and seriously we were wondering, “how do they not hit each other?” But the cyclists, like our team, got a good workout in the end. After our weight sessions, we got lunch at Panera and brought it back to The Home Depot Center to watch the young players scrimmage and now we are resting up for session number two of the day. I hope we get a rematch in our 4v4 battle from yesterday. It was the youngsters consisting of myself, Leslie, Tarp and Chalupa against Abby, Carli, Ang and Pearcie. We were up, but ended up losing by one goal. I need some redemption.

With that, Heather headed down to the locker room to gear up.

Yellow Rolls

The second scrimmage of training camp was this morning. The teams were re-structured from the first game, but the final result was still decisive, with the yellow team defeating the blue team, 3-0, in a 90-minute match. Amy Rodriguez scored again, sneaking in between a defender and the goalkeeper to steal the ball before slotting in an empty net. She’s sneaky and speedy that Rodriguez. Tobin Heath scored on a blast from outside the box that took a nasty deflection and looped over the goalkeeper. Sarah Huffman added the final goal, finishing a goal mouth scramble. This training camp has been a bit odd, with the two groups training and eating separately, passing each other on the field and in the hotel, but there has been a whole lot of soccer going on at The Home Depot Center and that has been excellent for the U.S. coaching staff. U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage will narrow the camp down at the end of this week and start training one group on Feb. 9.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Giants Rule!

The New York and New Jersey natives on the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team (at least those who aren’t Jets fans) were stoked tonight as they watched the Giants upset the New England Patriots. Those from the Northeast were quite as cheery. The U.S. team had its own Super Bowl Party, which included hot dogs and other tailgating snacks, in the lobby of the hotel. The team also conducted a Super Bowl pool with the winners taking home…ummm…chocolate chip cookies. That’s right. There was no real wagering on the Super Bowl by the WNT players. We’re standing by that. Hope Solo and massage therapist Jenny Pishko took home all the cookies.



The two groups in camp – younger players and veterans -- both had training this morning in some schizophrenic weather, which alternated between overcast clouds, misty rain, and some harder rain. There was even a minute of what looked like small hail, but since we live in California, we are not quite sure what hail looks like. They could have been just some very fat raindrops. The veterans trained earlier in the morning on a field adjacent to where the New York Red Bulls were training. The Red Bulls came to California for the “nice weather.” Poor guys. Hopefully, the sun will come out for them this week as four MLS teams are training at The Home Depot Center, including of course the hometown LA Galaxy and Chivas USA (as well as the San Jose Earthquakes). The veteran group was put through an intense fitness training, made even more difficult by a soggy field, which makes the legs even heavier. The younger players group, which is twice the size of the veterans, trained on the Field Turf as there was too much standing water on the grass. The veteran players will go into the gym tomorrow morning and get a rest for their legs while the younger players will scrimmage again.


Scrimmage Time

The younger players in camp are scheduled to play three 11 v. 11 matches during the first week of training. The first took place yesterday with the red team (well, the bibs are actually more of a salmon color) beating the blue team, 4-0. Goals were scored by Amy Rodriguez, two from Natasha Kai and an own goal, which came off a “shot-cross” from Heather Mitts (truth be told, it was more of a cross) that was inadvertently knocked into the net. It was the first 11 v. 11 game for Mitts (it was an 60-minute match) since her ACL surgery last spring, and she looks to be on her way back to game fitness. Look for a one-on-one interview with Mitts on her injury and comeback, coming soon on The younger players are going to scrimmage again tomorrow.